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Turbinectomy

3-minute read

This page will give you information about a turbinectomy. If you have any questions, you should ask your GP or other relevant health professional.

What are turbinates?

The turbinates (or nasal concha) are bony shelves in your nose covered by glandular tissue rich in blood vessels and nerves.

The turbinates help to regulate the flow of air through your nose.

The inferior turbinates can sometimes permanently enlarge and block your nose.

What are the benefits of surgery?

You should get relief from a blocked nose.

Illustration showing a cross-section of the nasal cavity showing an enlarged inferior turbinate.
Cross-section of the nasal cavity showing an enlarged inferior turbinate.

Are there any alternatives to surgery?

If your turbinates are enlarged because of rhinitis, your doctor may be able to give you steroid nasal sprays, decongestants or antihistamines to improve your symptoms of a blocked nose.

Surgery is recommended only if medication has not worked.

What does the operation involve?

The operation is performed through your nostrils and does not result in any facial scars or black eyes.

The operation is usually performed under a general anaesthetic but a local anaesthetic can be used. The operation usually takes 15 to 30 minutes.

Reducing the size of the turbinates usually involves one of the following techniques.

  • Diathermy – Passing an electric current through a needle placed either on the surface of the turbinate or inside the tissue.
  • Trimming – Cutting away the lower or outer part of the turbinate. This may also involve removing some of the turbinate bone and rolling some of the remaining tissue over the raw area.

Your surgeon may place some packing in your nose to prevent bleeding.

What complications can happen?

Some of these can be serious and can even cause death.

General complications of any operation

  • pain
  • bleeding
  • infection of the surgical site (wound)
  • blood clot in your leg
  • blood clot in your lung

Specific complications of this operation

  • scar tissue
  • crusting in your nose
  • increased nasal discharge
  • atrophic rhinitis, if too much tissue is removed
  • toxic shock syndrome, which is an infection of your bloodstream
  • damage to your tear duct

How soon will I recover?

You should be able to go home the same day.

If you had non-dissolvable packing in your nose, you will need to stay overnight and the packing will be removed the next morning.

You will need to stay off work and away from groups of people for 2 weeks. This is to avoid catching a cold, which could result in an infection.

Regular exercise should help you to return to normal activities as soon as possible. Before you start exercising, ask the healthcare team or your GP for advice.

Most people make a full recovery and can return to normal activities.

Summary

The inferior turbinates can sometimes become permanently enlarged and block your nose. Surgery should relieve your symptoms.

IMPORTANT INFORMATION
The operation and treatment information on this page is published under license by Healthdirect Australia from EIDO Healthcare Australia and is protected by copyright laws. Other than for your personal, non-commercial use, you may not copy, print out, download or otherwise reproduce any of the information. The information should not replace advice that your relevant health professional would give you.

For more on how this information was prepared, click here.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: September 2019


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